A large part of my son Charlie’s LEGO collection is made up of my Millennium Falcon set I used to keep up on my shelf of collectibles. One day, one of our cats (Luke or Leia) somehow managed to get up there and knock it six feet down to its demise. Not wanting to put it back together that early in the morning, I boxed it up and stashed it in my closet where, after a couple months, the cats managed to knock it off my closet shelf, shattering it again. This time my kids found it and wanted to play with it so bad. At this point, I could either withhold a toy I kept stashed next to my neckties in the dark recesses of my closet from my two favorite people, or I could decide to not be Lord Business from the LEGO Movie and let them use their imagination to build whatever they want (as long as the color scheme is mostly gray).
Fast forward a few weeks, my wife was talking to her dad about what to get Charlie for Christmas. She brought up how he’s recently become fascinated with LEGOs, particularly Star Wars LEGOs due to the incident described above, and how it’s really a present for both me and my son since I have to do the majority (all) of the labor. What she didn’t tell her dad was that Charlie’s favorite part of LEGO building was the post-build destruction. I mean, immediately after I finished building a Darth Vader LEGO set he looked at it, smiled, then unleashed the hounds of war. It makes sense, kids are inherently destructive, right? They aren’t malicious about it, but if you stack four boxes up and step back they are definitely going to pretend it’s a high rise and they are Godzilla. Seriously, for my two year old’s birthday, we bought 20 moving boxes, painted them like bricks, and stacked them into a wall for all the kids to bust through like superheroes. Those boxes stayed in our playroom for almost two whole months because it became the kids favorite thing to do.
This got me thinking about how I felt spending an hour and half on a LEGO build that was doomed from the start.
Was the time and effort worth it knowing that as soon as we finished, it would be set upon by a kid who LOVES the Hulk and wants to emulate his behavior?
It also brought a vague recollection of the Buddhist practice of creating sand paintings that I later learned are called mandalas (not the adult coloring books… not that there is anything wrong with that).
Sand mandalas are elaborate art pieces that are painstakingly created over several weeks by Buddhist monks. First they must lay out the geometric pattern for the mandala, and create the different color sands. Then the team of monks spend several weeks carefully creating each section of the mandala, and once completed they ceremoniously destroy it. The sand is swept up, some is given to the observers and the remainder is placed in a jar, wrapped in silk, then released in the nearest river. The point of this exercise is to show the temporary nature of life. It also encourages them to focus on the present moment instead of ruminating on the future.
Now, I know that putting little plastic blocks together with my son pales in comparison to the ritual creation and destruction of the Buddhist mandalas. There is, I think, a lesson to be learned here anyway. All of the time I spend with Charlie at the kitchen table searching through an ever-shifting pile of LEGOs is time well spent, regardless of the ultimate outcome of the LEGO creation. Or, you know, I could just be overthinking things like I normally do…